By Adam Brown – @AdamMNVi
Eight years ago the current Liverpool captain was nearly sold. Brendan Rodgers looked to acquire Fulham’s Clint Dempsey in an exchange deal which would have sent Henderson to South West London.
The young midfielder from Sunderland had endured a difficult first season on Merseyside after joining in the summer of 2011 for £20m. It seems bewildering the club were willing to give up on a player who made his debut for the Reds at just 21 years old.
Henderson arrived amid an instant demand for results; supporters were desperate to return to the Champions League. A year before, Liverpool had recorded their worst Premier League finish (7th) since the turn of the 21st century.
Blinded by an expectation of immediate success, Henderson’s performances appeared distorted, leaving few able to see the bigger picture. Even today some remain unconvinced by the Liverpool captain’s ability – so why does a player who has led the Reds to two consecutive Champions League finals still have something to prove?
“If anybody who is with us doesn’t see the quality of Jordan Henderson, I can’t help him,” says Klopp.
Whether it’s Liverpool fans complaining about a team selection, or performances under Gareth Southgate for England, there is scrutiny which has followed Henderson’s career for too long.
The Champions League semi-final against Barcelona proved Henderson can perform on the world’s biggest stage – ninety minutes which underpinned his performances in a Liverpool shirt over the last three seasons.
Six minutes in, he breaks into the box and skips by Gerard Pique before his shot is parried into Divock Origi, igniting one of the greatest comebacks in football history.
The attacking side of Henderson’s game is often overlooked. A more advanced spell last season reminded fans of his attacking midfield roots, changing the game when coming on as a substitute against Southampton.
Jordan Henderson has either scored or assisted a goal in four of his last six games in all competitions for Liverpool:
⚽️🅰️ vs. Southampton
✖️ vs. FC Porto
🅰️ vs. Chelsea
🅰️ vs. FC Porto
✖️ vs Cardiff
🅰️ vs Huddersfield
Getting in on the action. 💪 pic.twitter.com/LUdsBNBZUk
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 26, 2019
Tiresome myths suggest Henderson can’t attack, but some will never be convinced until they see statistics which compare closely with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne.
Those with agendas will quickly forget moments of brilliance from the Liverpool skipper. Extra time in the Club World Cup final, he threads the Flamengo defence to unlock Sadio Mane who squares to Roberto Firmino for the decisive goal.
It’s a type of pass which Henderson has looked to trouble teams with all season, a direct approach which has also seen Virgil and Alexander-Arnold punish those who have dared to keep a high line against the Reds.
— ᴀʟɪ (@Ali_8k) December 22, 2019
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A relentless work ethic and defensive ability mean that Henderson’s contributions in the attack are a bonus to an all-round midfielder. Improved consistency is testament to how the versatile captain has progressed and matured under Jurgen Klopp, discovering a rhythm which has led to a string of instrumental performances from the six.
“He’s a selfless player, he does a lot of work for the team that goes unnoticed,” highlights Steven Gerrard.
Such selflessness can be hard to find in modern football, yet it is a glowing characteristic held by many of the current Liverpool squad. Henderson epitomised this against Barcelona. In agony after suffering a blow to the knee, he was administered painkilling injections at half-time before completing the match with the tied-most tackles for Liverpool on the night.
Introducing your @bt_uk England Men's Player of the Year… 🥁
— England (@England) January 14, 2020
The recently crowned England Men’s Player of the Year is invaluable to the Reds. His award shows he may finally be getting the recognition he deserves, but there will always be some who will never appreciate the player bound for legend status at Anfield.
How does the future look?
Henderson is on course to be the first Liverpool captain to capture the Premier League title. The world champions have assembled a squad who are peaking together, forming a squad of primed players thirsty for more silverware. Winning the Champions League was just the start, but ending the club’s 30-year league title drought is the perfect way to further Klopp’s trophy haul which began in Madrid.
Contracted until 2023, the man signed by Kenny Dalglish has at least three more years to become one of Liverpool’s most successful captains in history. With Klopp signed until 2024, success will continue; meaning we haven’t seen the last of the famous Henderson trophy lift yet.
— The Notorious D.I.V (@NYCLFC_) January 14, 2020
By Adam Brown – @AdamMNVi